Asheville Brew Blog

Blind Tasting League

Lou Collichio came to Metro Wines with twenty eight years of experience in the spirits industry. He started his career in New Jersey first managing a small wine shop and then working for a chain of discount beer, wine, and liquor stores as a beer buyer and assistant store manager. After moving to Asheville in 2006, Lou worked for both Greenlife Grocery, and Whole Foods as a beer and wine buyer. His passion for all things craft beer started at the dawn of the American craft beer movement and has continued unabated to this day.

Lou says he is a "recovering musician." We haven't heard his music yet but what we do know is that Lou has stories! He plans to share some of his greatest hits with us and you on "Brewing UP a Storm" our beer blog. did you know that Lou was in a 7th grade play with James Gandolfini and lou stole the show? Stay tuned!


Anita Riley is the cellarman at Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough, NC and continues to blog for "Brewing Up a Storm." She holds the title of Certified Beer Server through Cicerone, USA, and is a native of WNC.

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Friday Night Beer Tasting - "GOH-zuh"

Gose (pronounced GOH-zuh) is a German style of beer that imparts a thirst-quenching lemon, often herbaceous, salinity through it's addition of coriander, salt, and lactic bacteria for fermentation.

As the temperatures rise this weekend, Gose would make a great sidekick to any outdoor activity. Join us tonight, June 10, at Metro Wines from 5-7pm to taste two of our favorites: Asheville's newest Hi-Wire Gose and Westbrook Gose out of Mount Pleasant, SC.

 

HI-WIRE GOSE 

Hi-Wire describes their Gose (4.2%), brewed with Pink Himalayan Salt, as tart, supremely drinkable, and incredibly balanced with complex fruit character. Crisp citrus and lemon-lime from coriander marries with their house Lactobacillus strain, creating subtle notes of stone fruit and apricot in this hazy, sessionable sour wheat beer.

 

WESTBROOK GOSE

According to Westbrook, this is their interpretation of Gose, a traditional German-style sour wheat beer brewed with coriander and salt. Sour, salty, delicious. Once nearly extinct, this very refreshing style is making a comeback.

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Beer Blind Tasting League is BACK! June 15th!

Join us for the return of the "Beer" Blind Tasting League taking place next Wednesday, June 15, and every third Wednesday of the month following from 6:00-7:00pm. 
 
Similar in format to the Wine Blind Tasting League, beer lovers will have the opportunity to delve into the world of sensory analysis with Asheville's favorite beverage. Analyzing the visual, aromatic, and flavor characteristics of four preselected and unknown beers, participants will be led through a discussion of different malt and hop profiles. Laughter and wild guesses are guaranteed as we attempt to identify the various styles of beer tasted in a fun exercise of the senses. 
 
Beer Blind Tastings are held at Metro Wines on Charlotte Street and begin at 6:00pm. Tickets for the Beer Blind Tasting League are $10 per person and can be purchased in advance at https://www.metrowinesasheville.com/store/product/blind-tasting-league-tickets-beer/. Reservations are requested. Parking is plentiful and free!
 
 
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Kim Thompson: The Story of Becoming Something Else

Most of us are familiar with the main ingredients in beer: water, hops, yeast, and grain (usually barley).  Each one of these ingredients are fascinating and complex on their own if you really dig into them. Hops are incredibly hard to grow. Yeast are particularly complex and finicky single cell organisms. Water chemistry can make the difference between a good beer and a great beer for a number of reasons. And grains.  Grains are the ingredient that make me ask, “How did the ancient brewers ever figure this out?!”  One cannot simply go out to their barley field, thresh a bunch of grains, and start brewing.  The grains must first be malted in order to be useful to the brewer.  Soda shops and malted milk balls have put malt in our common vernacular. We all have heard this term before, but how many of us really understand what it means?  I certainly didn’t have a full understanding of the process myself before entering into this industry. I’ll save you the vocabulary words and the diagrams.  Simply put, the maltster (that’s someone who makes malt) tricks the grain into growing.  They give the seeds just enough air and water to make them start to grow, then they dry it out, and roast the grains to develop the flavor and color. This process allows the starches in the grains to break down into simpler sugars that can then be extracted by the brewer and fermented by the yeast. Skip the malting step, and all you have is seed water. Insert pouty face here.

Until just recently, the only people malting grains were behemoth companies that supplied behemoth breweries. Those companies still exist, but now we are seeing craft maltsters start to work with grains that are locally grown and supply local craft breweries and homebrewers. They are still few and far between, but we are fortunate to have Riverbend Malt House here in Asheville. What makes them exceptional is that they are working with North Carolina grown grains that other maltsters wouldn’t normally bother with. This is bolstering a post-tobacco farming community that has been weeded out of business and struggling to retool their farms to stay in business. 

The work of malting is arduous. There is a lot of shoveling grains onto the malting floor, then into the kiln, then on to final packaging – usually tons at a time. It isn’t often considered “women’s work”, but just like every other part of the brewing industry, there are always a few.  I spoke with Kim Thompson of Riverbend Malt about her role at the facility. “I’ll admit that I come from a spoiled perspective of women in this industry. Riverbend is not a dude-bro club. These guys are conscientious about what they are doing, and the way they treat their employees is amazing. Everyone I've come across has been generous and open. It seems to be a pretty laid back community of like-minded people who are all about shared passions and getting the job done. It may be just around the corner or perhaps I'm just reaping the benefits of the trailblazers that came before me. When I go to work, I know I’m going to work my ass off, laugh my ass off, and learn a hell of a lot, and that’s because of the guys that I work with. I can't take myself too seriously. I appreciate the differences, but so far, in everything I've chosen to do whether it's been unconventional or otherwise, being a woman has never been an advantage or a disadvantage for me. I follow my heart and my gut, I do it with drive and passion, and being a woman has never been an issue. I've actually never considered it or factored it into how I navigate life or chosen professions. ”

Because of the physical nature of the work, everyone at Riverbend moves around to different stations, so Kim is involved with each step of the process from raw grain to finished product. She says that she was prepared for the laborious nature of the job, but was floored (no pun intended) by the cerebral nature of it. “We’re working with a living organism,” she says. “Every day I go into the germination room, I smell the grains, feel them, and taste them to see where they are in the process. I’m a very tactile person, and this is my way of educating my senses. It gives me a deeper understanding and appreciation for the process.”

She points to her childhood and adolescence in Germany and Belgium as the roots for her two main passions: bread and beer.  She knew that she wanted to be a part of the industries that make them happen, and working with the raw materials has given her that outlet.  She also mills grain into flour for Carolina Ground, and artisanal stone mill in Asheville. “I like having a hand in the story that becomes something else. I enjoy doing things so that other people don’t have to them and knowing that what I do makes life easier for other people. Whether the consumer even thinks about malting barley or milling grain, it’s an important part of modern life. We all have no idea how many hands go into the thing that allows us to be in the world the way we are today.” She says she’s comfortable being the human equivalent to a blue screen: the thing that you can’t see, but it makes your experience richer.  “Take our Riverbend Heritage Malt, for example.  I malt that at Riverbend, then I grind it into flour at Carolina Ground.  Then The French Broad Chocolate Lounge uses that flour to make pastries.  The person that eats that cake isn’t thinking about the flour or the malted grains that it comes from. They’re simply enjoying dessert. I love having my hand in so many steps of the process that make that experience possible for people.”

I asked Kim if she has a favorite beer. “Well,” she said, “I tend to go through phases depending on seasons and what's available or being a total nerd and getting into pairing, but saisons or anything with funk are the styles that are most appealing to me.”  And her favorite grain to work with? “Rye is beautiful.  It’s so complex in flavor, and it has this rich mouthfeel. I want to mill some of our malted rye into flour and bake with it at home.”

So why didn’t Kim pursue a career in baking or brewing? “I like being a part of that process on my own at home, but just because you like to cook doesn’t mean you should be a chef. Besides, I like to do things that are [physically] hard to do. What we do isn’t easy, but that’s what makes it so beautiful.”

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FRIDAY BEER TASTING - Jolly Pumpkin-Anchorage Brewing Calabaza Boreal Collaboration

This Friday between 5-7pm we'll be pouring this intriguing collaboration brew between Anchorage Brewing and Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter, MI. Calabaza Boreal is an ale brewed with grapefruit peel, juice and peppercorns and holds true to the wild, funky style that Jolly Pumpkin is known for. ENJOY!

From the brewer:

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. -Nietzche

When introspection fails, it’s time to look outward for inspiration, perhaps Northward! One of the people who inspired me this past year is my friend Gabe Fletcher, of Anchorage Brewing Co. We brewed this beer together. I hope it inspires you. Northward!

Warm regards,
RON”

 

 

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FRIDAY BEER TASTING - Highland Mosaic Rye IPL

IPA? No, an IPL. 

It's not a typo... It's an India Pale Lager and Highland Brewing Company's latest release in their Warrior Series. According to Highland, the beers in The Warrior Series feature bold aromas and flavors, often high gravity, and styles that vary widely. The Mosaic Rye IPL features all of the aforementioned and then some. It is, stylistically, a rebel! 

Lagers are traditionally clean, crisp, refreshing... a palate cleanser. In the case of this ambitious IPL, it is the perfect blank canvas to highlight the beautiful hop complexity of the Mosaic hops, the spicyness of the rye, and the long finish courtesy of the healthy 8% abv. I sampled this delicious brew last night and experienced the candied citrus, pine, peppery spices in the aroma and flavor firsthand.

Starting tomorrow, Highland's Mosaic Rye IPL will be available at Metro Wines for you to try and buy at our Friday Beer Tasting, 5-7pm! 



 

 

 

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Friday Beer Tasting - Beer Floats!

choklat.jpeg

Chocolate, orange, and ice cream. Mmmmmm...the perfect guilty pleasure. 

If you haven't already ventured to the dark side of ice cream floats, let us help you. This Friday, May 20th, between 5-7pm we will be serving up the heavenly Choklat Oranj stout brewed by Southern Tier out of Lakewood, NY paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

According to the brewery, Choklat Oranj is the fifth beer currently in their highly regarded Blackwater series. Choklat Oranj is a stout brewed with chocolate and orange peels, opaque black in color, 10% abv, and makes a delicious dessert beer. It's perfect alone or enjoyed as a float. 

Who are we to decline a suggestion to add ice cream to beer?

 

 

 

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Friday Beer Tasting - Pilsner vs Lager

Tonight at Metro Wines, 5-7pm, our Friday Beer Tasting is back! 

 

Pilsners are Lagers, but Lagers are not always Pilsners. 

Confused yet?

Beer is typically separated into two categories, ales and lagers. Lagers are made with a bottom-fermenting lager yeast reaching maturation in cold temperatures and ales are made with a top-fermenting ale yeast in slightly warmer temperatures. There are many different styles of both ales and lagers. 

Tonight we are going to explore two new arrivals to the store that fall under the lager category: Nantahala Little Tennessee Logger and the brand spanking new Highland Pilsner in a CAN

 

NANTAHALA LITTLE TENNESSEE LOGGER

 

Nantahla Brewing Company describes their Little Tennesse Logger as a hoppy lager (or Happy Lumberjack) brewed to quench the thirst of hardworking , hop-forward outdoor types. It was a hoppy mistake one brew day that turned out to be a very popular off-season favorite. Hopped with French Aramis, a very floral, rosey flavored variety that transformed this beer from light lager to hopped up goodness. Yet, it maintains its crisp, refreshing soul. Which makes this one the perfect brew to wrap up an action-packed day of outdoor pursuits.

 

 

HIGHLAND PILSNER

 

Highland describes this brew as a finely nuanced pilsner featuring German Hallertau Blanc hops and three other Hallertau region varietals (Saphir, Perle, and Hersbrucker hops) adding notes of stone fruit, pepper, and lush grass to the German pilsner malt body. Cold fermented with lager yeast for a crisp finish.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Magical Mystery Tour of the Triangle

I recently moved to the Triangle area to accept a cellar position with Mystery Brewing Company. What does a newly relocated Cellarman and Beer Writer do when finding themselves in unfamiliar territory? Well, we go on a beer tour, of course! I gathered the gals from the Mystery team, hopped in my pickup truck, and took off to sample the beers and meet (did you have any doubt?) the women behind them! Brittany Judy, Office Manager, and Jessica Arvidson-Williams, NC Sales Rep were more than happy to go day drinking with me on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon!




Disclaimer: There wasn't time in a day to get around to all of the breweries in the Triangle that have women in leadership and/or production roles. I have my work cut out for me down here! It certainly isn't close to all the breweries the Triangle has to offer.


Stop #1
Bombshell Beer Company, Holly Springs, NC
This is a 100% woman-owned brewery in Holly Springs, NC just south of Raleigh. I caught up with owners Ellen Joyner, Jackie Hudspeth and Michelle Miniutti on the heels of their second anniversary party, and just as the brewery was preparing to begin canning their beers for distribution. They got their start as homebrewers while they each worked in the corporate world. These women bring their experience in marketing, sales, and product management into their jobs as brewery owners. Each of them are deeply concerned with the quality of their beers, and want every interaction with their brand to be the best it can be. Michelle recounted the decision to stop making their most popular beer, a pilsner, because of quality concerns. "It came down to opportunity costs," she said. Because this lager style takes longer to ferment than ale styles, they weren't making as much of their other styles as they could. Bombshell spent some time taste testing a cream ale with their regular customers, and found that the similar flavor profile was well received in their market. The Star Light Ale was born! Even though they were all nervous about making the switch, the brewery is better off for being brave and taking the chance. They admit that making tough decisions can be hard, but the end result is worth it.
"I love seeing people having a good time and enjoying our beers," Jackie said. "Even though decision making can be difficult at times, we know that it's because we have a great brand and everyone in the room wants what's best for the company."
"You want to come to work in the morning," Ellen added. "Plus, I don't have to wear suits and heels anymore, either! I had to put on heels for Christmas, and I almost fell off of them! It had been that long since I'd worn them!"
Michelle's favorite part of brewery ownership is being more hands on in the community. "We are able to host fundraisers in our space and give back to the community in a more personal way. In the corporate world, we did a lot of high level philanthropy, but we rarely got to meet the people we were helping."
Bombshell has just launched distribution of cans around the local market. "But," Michelle said, "Growth for the sake of growth isn't what we are after. We want to grow at a pace that allows us to continue to focus on quality, ensuring that we are putting the best possible packaged product into the market."
"We work hard," Jackie continued, "we want to have a good product to show for that hard work."


Stop #2
Raleigh Brewing Company, Raleigh, NC
I met up with Kristie Nystedt just after the weekly Sunday afternoon yoga class at the brewery. She and her husband, Patrick opened Raleigh Brewing Company in March of 2013 on the heels of opening two other businesses that they still operate. They Nystedts opened Atlantic Brew Supply (ABS) Commercial, which wholesales commercial brew systems and tanks to breweries in September of 2012, followed quickly by Atlantic Brew Supply homebrew shop in December of the same year. They have now grown to be the largest homebrew supplier on the eastern seaboard!
Kristie says that she and Patrick had always talked about opening a nanobrewery in their retirement. But when her company announced a double merger at the same time that Patrick's company declared bankruptcy, they decided that their dreams didn't need to wait any longer. They have two daughters that were about to enter college at the time, and suddenly what seemed risky from the comfort of secure jobs seemed like the least risky thing they could do. "No one had time to dip toes into the water. We went in with both feet. We knew that the excitement around craft beer was growing, and the time was right."
I was enjoying their most popular beer, the "Hell Yes Ma'am" a Belgian Golden Ale. "This is the beer that I helped create," Kristie tells me. It's the only style she insisted that they carry from the beginning. So, when the guys presented the initial line up of beers that they proposed as their core brands, Kristie immediately said, "Where's the Belgian Golden?" The only proper response was, "Hell yes Ma'am." The guys challenged Kristie to come up with the recipe, which she did. She designed the malt bill, the hop character, and chose the yeast that make up this unique, high gravity beer.
I asked Kristie if she had experienced any advantages or disadvantages by being a woman in a male dominated industry. "If I have, I haven't noticed," she said. "I don't play that card. I have too much on my plate to get wrapped up in that sort of thing. If I run into any push back, I just tell them that they might want to try the beers now. People are usually a lot nicer after a beer. I'm more interested in being a part of the community. I want to help Raleigh grow to be the city that it wants to be. I just want to add a small grain to that," Kristie says of her involvement with several economic development boards and merchant associations.


Stop #3
Fullsteam Brewery, Durham, NC
Amanda Richardson is a brewer from from New Hampshire, though she first discovered her love of beer while traveling in the Czech Republic. She started her career in the beer industry at Brooklyn Brew Shop, orchestrating assembly of gallon kits and brewing on a small scale for events. When she relocated to Durham a couple years ago, Fullsteam's Plow to Pint model spoke to her. Fullsteam is dedicated to locally sourced ingredients, and endeavors to support local agriculture in post tobacco North Carolina. Amanda had already been brewing with local ingredients she found at the farmer's market, and Fullsteam offered the challenge of scale. "It's harder than people think. We have to get a large amount of quality ingredients to brew a la batch. It has to be feasible on our system, and then what if it's a bad crop that year? There are challenges all the way through." The flip side of the challenge is the reward of getting to interact with the people in the community when they bring ingredients to sell to the brewery.
Amanda points out another perk of working in the brewing industry: the people that it attracts. "We come from so many backgrounds, it makes work more dynamic," said the brewer who studied neuroscience in college! She admits that the combination of science and creativity that goes into beer production was a main draw for her entering the field. "It's like I'm providing therapy for the yeasts! We make sure that their needs are met, so that they can do the work that they do. We are like yeast social workers!"
Mary Beth Brandt, Fullsteam's General Manager joined the conversation. She started out volunteering "doing stuff" with Fullsteam before they got the brewery up and running. Sean, the owner, asked Mary Beth for her resume, and a few months later she was hired on, and over time she worked her way to the position of GM. She still defines her job description as, "doing stuff; whatever needs to be done." She encourages anyone seeking a position in the brewing industry to keep searching until the right opportunity comes along. "If you're really interested in beer, don't be afraid to get out there and find a company that will give you an opportunity. You may have to start in one position before you transition into the role that you really want."
"There's a lot of education out there," Amanda adds, "but there are still an apprentice route that could be beneficial to some people."

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Friday Beer Tasting - Feeling Funky!

Tonight at Metro Wines, 5-7pm, beer and wine tango side-by-side with Wicked Weed Marina Peach and Apricot Blonde Sour and Ca' di Rajo Le Moss Frizzante.

Although seemingly very different, these two share some very interesting commonalities. In fact, sour ales are often referred to as the bridge between beer and wine. Pairing these two side by side, it's easy to understand why.

 

WICKED WEED MARINA

American Wild Ale, Peach and Apricot Blonde Sour

"Marina is a blonde sour ale aged in wine barrels with over one pound per gallon of peaches and apricots. The result is a lovely, hazy-gold ale with deep stone fruit character."

American wild ales utilize unique yeast strains or bacteria, sometimes in addition to or in lieu of the traditional brewers' yeast saccharomyces cerevisiae. People usually develop a love-hate relationship with these sour ales. The funky flavors produced in fermentation give them a unique of character that some liken to ...well, I'll let you use your own descriptors. Personally, I'm a big fan. 

Marina's mild flavors of apricot and peach tame the wild in this sour ale. The barrel aging process gives it a depth that lingers on your palate and allows you to savor the funk. 

If only Metro Wines had a disco ball.

 

CA' DI RAJO LE MOSS FRIZZANTE

Wild Fermented, Col Fondo Prosecco

 

Le Moss is not your typical prosecco. This wine is unfiltered and made in the traditional methods of Col Fondo. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in bloom directly in the bottle, it has a slight sour taste similar to a tart apple balanced with a full mouthfeel the winery describes as "pleasant and harmonious on the palate."
When one Metro Wine's customer tasted Le Moss and shared that it reminded her of a gose. That got our wheels turning. Why not lead adventurers across the bridge to the world of sour beers via Le Moss! 

 

If you like a little funk in your flavor, both of these are worth a taste. 

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The Legend of the Boojum

The Legend of the Boojum
There are mythical creatures that live in the high hills surrounding Waynesville, NC. You may not see them, as they rarely leave their cozy den, but their presence is felt across WNC by many a beer lover. I am speaking, of course, about the brother and sister team behind Boojum Brewing Company.  Kelsie and Ben Baker discovered their mutual love for brewing while they were on opposite ends of the Eastern Seaboard. Ben was working in a nuclear power plant in Florida.  His sister Kelsie was an environmental engineer in Boston. Neither of them knew about each other’s love for brewing until a family gathering, when they each disclosed that they wanted to leave their professions and start a brewery. It only made sense to them to start one brewery together. I had heard about people like this – people that actually enjoy the company of their family members for eight hours a day, every day – but I had never met any in real life. Most of our interview went like this: Kelsie and Ben laughing and getting a long while I cocked my head to the side with a look of bewilderment on my face. 
I was even more surprised to find out that their parents and aunt and uncle are also involved. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense that the two need reinforcements to pull off such an undertaking.  On the other hand, the three ring side show that I have come to know as family dynamics make this all the more unbelievable. But given that they are celebrating their first year in business by adding a line of canned beers that are being distributed across WNC, ramping up production to keep up with demand, and trying to figure out how to expand their taproom and restaurant to accommodate the influx of visitors, I decided to suspend my disbelief and just go with it. 
“You know your family, so you know what to expect. You know what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are, and how to work together as a team for the best result,” Kelsie says. “It can be hard to separate work from family life, so sometimes we find ourselves at a family picnic talking about work when we should be relaxing,” she counters. 
“I think it’s awesome. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Ben insists. “There will be fights, but you’re family, so you get over it. You can’t just get rid of your family members, so you have to find a way to make it work.” And they have. 
Kelsie, 27, handles the day to day operations of the brewery. She schedules the brewing, orders ingredients, helps brew and package the beer, and some of the cellar work so that Ben, 28, can focus on the brewing and making the beers the best they can be. “There are so many good breweries out there, that we have to focus on quality,” Kelsie says. Already this brewery has garnered a lot of respect from the local brewing community. 
Kendra Penland, Director of the Asheville Brewer’s Alliance had this to say, "Boojum Brewing is a great example of how our Asheville Brewers Alliance members and their products can be so distinct, but do such a solid job of knowing who they are as a brand and focusing on the customer experience, that success naturally follows. I think that's why so many breweries not only coexist in our region, but see the value in collaborating with and supporting each other - everyone wants to make great beer their way, and they want to see others do the same thing. It elevates everyone in the industry, so everyone wins."
“We are excited to grow, and we want to take our business as far as we can,” Kelsie says regarding their future plans. “We are looking forward to seeing our cans in bottle shops and grocery stores, but we also want to grow sustainably.  We are focused primarily on Western North Carolina right now, from Asheville west.  We plan to grow as fast as we comfortably can without sacrificing quality.” Having said that, there’s a lot of change coming for the brother-sister team in 2016. Boojum’s King of the Mountain Double IPA just hit the shelves in cans in December of 2015, and Graveyard Fields, their highly coveted Blueberry Coffee Porter and Reward American Pale Ale arrived in February. Mûr, a Raspberry Saison will arrive later in the Spring. “It’s so hard to decide which beers to focus our distribution efforts on.  Ultimately, we went with the ones that people asked us for the most.”  Even as they continue to grow their staff, they are keeping with the theme of family and close, close friends.  They’ve hired their friend, Keller Fitzpatrick, who has literally been friends with the Bakers since they were babies. Keller is heading up the barrel aging and sour program at Boojum. Cody Noble, who attended the same high school. is also a recent graduate of the brewing program at Blue Ridge Community College in Brevard.  He has already come up with some great beers like our Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout & Jalapeño Wheat IPA. Elisa Tathum, a longtime friend from Kelsie’s days in Boston, also worked as a distiller for Blue Ridge Distilling, which makes Defiant Whisky, before coming on board at Boojum. 
Boojum is currently working on developing new recipes and experimenting with new techniques. “We come together and decide as a team how we want the beer to taste, then Ben makes it taste like that!” They are also isolating yeast strains from the local flora and using that to ferment beers. Part of the fun for Kelsie and Ben is keeping the lineup exciting with special releases and new flavors.  At the time of our interview, they were most excited about their Galaxy Far, Far Away IPA that they made for the release of The Force Awakens.  They used Millennium, Falconers Flight, and Galaxy hops to create this English Style IPA. You could tell that they were both huge fans of the films by how excited they both were about this beer.  I could start to see why they worked together so well by focusing on what they agree on and staying true to themselves. I could tell that they were both on the same page when I asked them what their loftiest goal for the brewery is.  “To make the ultimate IPA,” Kelsie said. 
“The best IPA EVER!” Ben echoed!
 
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Friday Beer Tasting - An Apple a Day...

Friday Beer Tasting - An Apple a Day...

Who said apple cider is a fall beverage? Not I...and neither does Food and Wine Magazine. One of their most recent articles features a list of refreshing apple cider cocktail recipes (http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/5-spritzy-hard-cider-cocktails). Personally, I consider these often-canned beverages picnic perfect. Max Patch Bald, anyone? 

This Friday at Metro Wines, 5-7pm, we're going to explore the versatility of this much-loved beverage. Gather round ye gluten free guys and gals...drink up!

 

FOR LOVERS OF ALL THINGS LOCAL:

NAKED APPLE - BLACKBERRY GOLD

Blackberry Gold has just a hint of our very own mountain grown blackberries woven into this Golden Delicious Cider. Its tart and tasty and leaves the palate wanting more! This is a hands-down favorite amongst hard core cider drinkers because it’s quite pleasantly a bit different from a traditional cider.

 

wicked peel

NAKED APPLE - WICKED PEEL

Wicked Peel Hard Cider is refreshing, crisp and delicious.  It has a hint of sweet but not too much making it the PERFECT cider for a hot summer day. Picnic in the park, anyone? We only use Apples from Henderson County, North Carolina.

 

 

JUST PLAIN GOOD:

 

CITIZEN CIDER - THE FULL NELSON

This is a 'welcome' and a 'hello' to all the beer drinkers out there willing to take a chance on hard cider. Reach across the aisle and experience this bright, citrusy, easy-drinking cider. This cider is made with fresh sweet cider pressed at Happy Valley Orchard in Middlebury, Vermont and dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin hops. We can get along.

No added sugar, never from concentrate.

Pairings: Scallops, pork burger, ceasar salad, cheddar cheese

 

CITIZEN CIDER - UNIFIED PRESS

Made from 100% locally (Vermont) sourced apples, never from concentrate, the Unified Press is Citizen Cider's flagship cider that keeps you wondering where it's been your whole life. This naturally gluten-free cider is an off-dry, crisp, clean and refreshing cider that keeps you coming back.

Pairings: Pork, soft cheese, spicy food, smoked fish, rustic bread and butter.

 

 

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Friday Beer Tasting - Fruit Forward

Friday Beer Tasting - Fruit Forward

Spring forward, fruit forward. It's not much of a stretch is it? 

Last week we tasted some tasty belgian-style brews as we sprung into spring. Tonight we are going to feature two very different ales, both with a healthy dose of Vitamin-C to help you rebound from winter: One-time release local Hi-Wire Brewing's Tropical Fruit Golden Strong and limited availability Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu Ancient Ale. Join us between 5-7pm and drink some liquid sunshine. Below is a brief description from each of the breweries on their fine beers.

 

HI-WIRE TROPICAL FRUIT GOLDEN STRONG

 

A fruit-forward, 11% ABV, American-style golden strong ale brewed with fresh guava, papaya, and mango.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DOGFISH HEAD CHATEAU JIAHU ANCIENT ALE


Let's travel back in tie again for another Dogfish Head Ancient Ale (Midas Touch was our first foray and Theobrama our most recent). Our destination is 9,000 years ago, in Northern China! Preserved pottery jars found in the Neolithic village of Jiahu, in Henan province have revealed that mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey and fruit was being produced that long ago, right around the same time that barley beer and grape wine were beginning to be made in the Middle East!

Fast forward to 2005. Molecular archaeologist, Dr. Patrick McGovern, of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology calls on Dogfish Head to re-create another ancient beverage and Chateau Jiahu is born. 

In keeping with historic evidence, Dogfish brewers use orange blossom honey, muscat grape juice, barley malt and hawthorne fruit. The wort is fermented for about a month with sake yeast until the beer is ready for packaging.

 
Food Pairing Recommendations: 
Mexican and Indian cuisines, spice cake, oranges
 
Glassware Recommendation:
Snifter
 
Wine Comparable:
Citrusy sauvignon
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Friday Beer Tasting - Spring has Sprung!

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As the spring equinox, on March 20, approaches and the sun begins to shed its light into the evening hours, I can't help but think of the warmer spring and summer months. Since beer is often at the forefront of my mind, this also makes me think of saisons, sours, and anything Belgian in style.

This Friday, March 11, 5-7 pm, at Metro we will have these fine ales "on the taste."

 

Highland Brewing Company Saw-Whet Saison: Saisons, traditionally Belgian farmhouse ales were brewed throughout the winter to be enjoyed by the thirsty farmers during the spring and summer months. Highland notes that Saw-Whet "shows off a complex malt bill and a unique, spicy yeast, with subtle citrus notes. Astutely hopped for balance and dimension, while finishing exceptionally dry. A perfect beer to transition from winter to spring."


D9 Whiskers on Kittens Blonde Sour: Sour beers are definitely an acquired taste, but I find the effect of lactobacillus, brettanomyces, and pediococcus on an "intentionally" infected beer charming. D9's Whiskers on Kittens is no exception with a hint of rose petals on the palate and a sour sweep of the tongue from front to back.

Wicked Weed Lunatic Blonde: Brewed with Belgian hops and yeast, this Blonde Ale imparts the fruity, bread flavors of a classic Belgian Blonde. Simplicity at its finest. We'll leave fancy to the city folk. The packaging tells the story best..."Some believe it moonstruck madness to craft Old World ales for modern palettes constantly clamoring for the extremes of 'Hoppy' or 'Sour.' While our love for those extremities is strong, we believe that subtley, balance, and simplicity in beer are sacred necessities."

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday Beer Tasting - Foothills Brewing -Tonight!

FOOTHILLS BREWING BEER TASTING  foothills-brewing-logo

 

Beer-Thumbnails-Jade-bigJADE IPA

Jade. Exotic jewel of the orient. Now a gem of an IPA. Bold, citrusy Pacific Jade hops lend striking tropical fruit notes and a hint of peppery finish to this easy-drinking IPA. Dry hop additions of Chinook and Citra add heady aroma and bold flavor. A special beer to charm the hop lover in you. Go ahead. Get Jaded.

Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 7.4%

Color (SRM): 4.1

Bitterness (IBUs): 86

 

 

 

Beer-Thumbnails-SeeingDoubleSEEING DOUBLE IPA

Foothills’ first foray into high gravity brewing. A dense blend of base malts sets a solid foundation for massive additions of Cascade hops and a Chinook dry-hopping. The result is an intense flavor profile that’s citrusy with heavy notes of pine. And immensely delicious.

Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 9.3%

Color (SRM): 4.9

Bitterness (IBUs): 108

 

 

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Jess Reiser: Nurturing a Business and Watching it Grow

You know the old saying, “If you want something done, ask the busiest person to do it”? Following that logic, I think I would ask Jess Reiser, co-owner of Burial Beer, to do all of my dirty work! She somehow manages to make running a thriving brewery while raising two young children look easy. When I spoke with Jess, she was just recovering from Burnpile, the annual fall beer festival that started as a get together in their home with a few friends. The festival celebrates the fall harvest by showcasing seasonal offerings from a variety of breweries across the state. “Festivals are fun, but they are also a lot of work. We don’t have to put on an event like this,” Jess says, “but festivals and events are part of Burial.” She points to the sickle that is part of the logo. “Burial, for some, is a necessary step to reach the afterlife. At Burial Beer Co., we see it as a celebration: of life, of the cyclical nature of harvest and of the brewing process. We find glory in the things that once were.” Bringing the community of brewers together with the community of craft beer enthusiasts in a repurposed building to celebrate this cycle just makes sense. When Jess, Doug, and Tim started Burial in 2013, they had a one barrel system (that’s two kegs in each batch) that made it hard to keep up with demand for their beer. Now, just two and a half years later, they have expanded to a ten barrel system with thirty barrel fermenters. Burial is producing more beer and hosting more guests than ever before. The opportunity to purchase the building they had been leasing arose. This allowed Burial to expand into the outdoor spaces that surrounds the building at 40 Collier Ave. In 2015, they added cans to their line of offerings, and began distribution to other parts of the state, including Charlotte, The Triangle and the Triad. The brewery is currently looking for a second location for additional expansion. All of these are big strides as a young company experiencing steady growth, but they are giant leaps for a mother of two boys, ages four and two. The youngest, Nash, was born just two months after Burial opened! Suddenly, the burgeoning brewery and petite owner appear much bigger than at first glance! Jess has single handedly managed the public relations, marketing, human resources, book keeping, and event planning! Only recently was she able to expand her sales team and delegate tasting room management to their General Manger about a year ago. Even still, she insists that Burial is growing at a pace that is comfortable for them. I had to know how she was able to juggle all of these elements, and so well at that. Prior to opening a brewery, Jess worked at a large nonprofit that worked toward getting homeless adults into housing and connecting them with resources. In her role in the fundraising department, she wrote grants, planned events, managed social media accounts, built and strengthened the brand and their marketing campaign. All of this experience has prepared her for what she is doing now. She also holds a Masters in Art Administration, which has helped with the visual branding of Burial Beer Company. “Tim and Doug also have a great eye,” Reiser says. “I fell in love with European Renaissance paintings while I was in school, specifically Northern Renaissance paintings. Now we have a line of beers named after famous works from this genre.” She adds that they work with an artist to communicate the cyclical theme by including a light side and a dark side to each of their can designs. They show the artist the painting the beer is named after, and he creates new pieces that nod at the original piece while staying true to Burial’s brand. So what’s next for Jessica and Burial Beer? She says that they are currently looking for a second location that would have more space for a larger taproom and production facility. With this new location they hope to grow production, but not beyond 16,500 barrels per year. “Even if we were met with demand and could grow past that, we wouldn’t,” Jess says. “We want to remain a manageable niche brewery. All we really want is to make a living, and retire one day. Maybe take a vacation once in a while, and pay for our kids’ college.” When asked what she would say to other women looking to go into business for themselves, Jess had this to say, “Women are often met with the challenge of wanting to do it all – children, taking on leadership roles, or opening a business – and feeling like they have to choose. I would tell other women that they can do it all. Having a business is a lot like having a child. It’s stressful, and the future is uncertain yet it is extremely rewarding. I have maternal feelings toward my business, and I care for it as I would a child. Parenting and owning a business challenge you in many of the same ways, but they are ways that make you a better person. Sometimes I wish I could fast forward ten years and know that my kids are healthy and happy, and the business is successful. But I think it’s important to remember that we are only human. No one can anticipate everything that will come up. We just deal with the curve balls as they come.”
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Back to the Future for Craft Beer

                There is a growing trend in the craft beer movement toward historical styles these days. This gets me excited.  It means that more people are getting serious about learning about beer, not just seeing who can pound the most flavorless, water-like beverages.  We are going for quality here, not quantity.  Some of these styles have only existed in history books until they were resurrected in liquid form by the craft brewers and home brewers striving for preservation and innovation of libation. In fact, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) just added an entire section devoted to Historical Styles for judges to go by at homebrew festivals.  This means that more of them are showing up at competitions as well as on the shelves.  What’s all the fuss about?  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Gose [pronounced “goes-uh”]: This sour, salty wheat beer was nearly extinct at the end of the twentieth century. Traditionally fermented with both brewer’s yeast and lactobacillus to add acidity, this style takes its name from the Gose River in Goslar, Germany, where it is thought to have originated over one thousand years ago when adventurous brewers decided to see what would happen if they made beer with the area’s naturally salty water. More commercial representations of this style are coming on the market every day, and the Gose fan club is growing.  Some examples include Westbrook Brewing’s Gose, Anderson Valley Brewing’s The Kimmie, The Yink, and the Holy Gose, Victory Brewing’s Kirsch Gose, Evil Twin Brewing’s Mission Gose, and Braustelle’s  Freigeist Geisterzug Gose.

Kentucky Common: A dark cream ale that sprang up from the mineral rich carbonate water in and around Louisville, Kentucky in the late 1800’s and went the way of the buffalo when Prohibition hit Kentucky in 1919.  As with traditional cream ales, corn grits are used to add mouthfeel.  Unlike other cream ale recipes, however, this one calls for about ten percent of the grains to be caramel or dark roasted.  When carbonate (CO3 ) water is used (often in conjunction with calcium and/or magnesium) in the process as it was in Louisville, the color of the malts is more easily extracted from the kernel resulting in a darker beer than carbonate-free water.  Commercial example: Apocalypse Brew Works Ortel’S 1912

Lichtenhainer: This is a smoky, sour wheat beer made from a mash of smoked wheat and malted barley that orginated from the central German region of Thuringia. It is often thought of as the love child of the tart Berliner Wiesse and the smokey Grätzer (we’ll get to those in a moment). They are characterized by their low ABV (around 4 or 5%) and almost nonexistent hop presence. As with Gose and the Kentucky Common, this style was popular in the late 1800’s.  Commercial examples include Westbrook Brewing’s Lichtenhainer.

London Brown Ale: A caramel, toffee, sometimes chocolatey dessert in a glass! This style uses a hefty proportion of medium to dark roasted barley and carbonate water to get as much the flavors and color out of the grains as possible. They aren’t quite as dark as a stout, and sweeter than a Dark English Mild with an average ABV of only 3%.  We can trace the history of this beer back to its invention by Mann’s in 1902 in London. Brown Ale had previously been a blanket term that encompassed many styles including milds and porters. Commercial examples include Mann's Brown Ale, Harvey’s Nut Brown Ale, Harvey’s Old Ale.

Grätzer [GRATE-sir]: This beer actually has two names because the Polish city of Grodzisk it derived from was called Grätz when it was ruled by Prussia and Germany.  Therefore, you may see it referred to as Piwo Grodziskie [pivo grow-JEES-keeuh].  This is the smokey wheat beer that is rumored to have inspired the Lichtenhainer style we discussed earlier. Grätzer is made of all or almost all oak wood smoked malted wheat, several strains of ale yeasts, and German, Czech, or Polish hop varieties.  It sports a thick, white head of foam and a golden clarity accomplished not from filtering but from the addition of Isinglass finings. While this style was made for several hundred years, it was most popular at the turn of the 20th century and died out after World War II. Commerical examples include Professor Fritz Briem Piwo Grodziskie-Grätzer Ale and New Belgium and The 3 Floyds collaboration Lips of Faith Grätzer (now out of production).

Roggenbier: Described as a dunkleweizen made from a mash of at least 50% rye instead of wheat, this is a light orange to dark red or brown beer with a thick, frothy foam. The rye imparts a creamy mouthfeel and an unmistakeable spice that is balanced with the banana clove esters delivered by the weizen yeast.  Light use of hops in this style keep the flavors of the yeast and grains front and center. This style was never very popular, and was only made in a small area of Bavaria called Regensburg. It struggled to gain widespread production because of the German purity law known as Reinheitsgebot.  In an effort to make more solid bread available for a starving population, the law was enacted in 1516 and dictated that only barley should be used to make beer so that other grains could be preserved for bread production. Paulaner Roggen (formerly Thurn und Taxis, no longer imported into the US), Bürgerbräu Wolznacher Roggenbier

Sahti: There’s a lot of debate over what distinguishes a Sahti from other styles.  Most descriptions include a good proportion of rye in the malt bill, and juniper berries for balancing the sweetness rather than hops, and low carbonation.  The truth is that there simply aren’t a lot of commercial representations of this style, and they vary widely from one another, in part because of the history.  Sahti is a traditional Finnish beer that until very recent history, was strictly homebrew.  Because of the lack of commercial breweries defining this style, home brewers have been free to tweak recipes to their liking.  The BJCP has the most narrow description of the style that I’ve found, claiming that sourness is not appropriate and that the yeast character should be limited to the banana-clove esters of a weizen yeast. Other self-proclaimed Finnish Sahtis include the tartness of wild fermentation, and some do use hops rather than juniper for flavor balance. What is consistent, however, is that this beer does not undergo a boil as most beers do.  This means that the proteins are not omitted from the beer, and stay behind as a slick mouthfeel and a pronounced sweetness. The beer is later filtered over a bed of juniper branches to impart a piney, gin-like flavor in most cases, but not all.  Commerical examples include Dogfish Head Sah’tea, New Belgium Sahti Ale, and Samuel Adams Norse Legend.

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Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow
It’s no secret that I have aspirations to enter the brewing industry. Most of you know that I’ve been working toward a degree in Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation at AB Tech’s Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast. I even know what position I want to pursue!  I wrote about it here. So, I am excited to share with you all that I have been offered, and have accepted a position as Cellarman at Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough, NC. If you aren’t familiar with this title or what I will be doing, here’s a fun interview with a few cellarmen that explains it all very well.  I will be making the transition from beer buying to beer producing at the beginning of 2016. 
 
As excited as I am to take this position, I am also sad to have to say good-bye to Asheville and Metro Wines. That includes all of you that I have gotten to know through our interactions in the shop!  I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you and your tastes and preferences and geeking out with you about beer this last year!  While my presence in the shop will be limited to occasional guest appearances, I will continue to share my writing on this blog, as well as Asheville Grit and WNC Woman Magazine!  
 
I am also excited to invite you all to a special tasting of Mystery Brewing Company’s beers at Metro Wines on Wednesday, December 30th from 5-7pm. I’ll be here to share the beers that I will soon have a hand in creating. Jessica from Mystery will be on hand as well as Erika who will be filling my role here at the shop. I hope to see you there, also!  Please come out and share in my excitement! 
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Drink Like a Girl With Dogfish Head!

Drink Like a Girl With Dogfish Head!

Brewing Up A Storm will host Drink Like a Girl with Wes Anderson from Dogfish Head on Friday, December 11 from 5-7 pm. Join us for this free beer tasting featuring four Dogfish Head beers!  Wes will be available to answer questions about Dogfish Head and their beers!  Here's what we'll pour:

This was the first beer in our Ancient Ales series.
 
This sweet yet dry beer is made with ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels from the tomb of King Midas. Somewhere between beer, wine and mead, Midas will please the chardonnay and beer drinker alike.
 
For years, Dogfish Head has worked with biomolecular archaeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern to bring Ancient Ales to life. For more on Midas Touch and the experience of Penn Museum excavators as they uncovered the tomb of the legendary King Midas, read this essay from Dr. Pat.
 
An unfiltered, unfettered, unprecedented brown ale aged in handmade wooden brewing vessels. The caramel and vanilla complexity unique to this beer comes from the exotic Paraguayan Palo Santo wood from which these tanks were crafted. Palo Santo means "holy tree," and its wood has been used in South American wine-making communities.

This highly roasty and malty brown ale clocks in at 12% ABV. A huge hit at our Rehoboth Beach brewpub when first released in November 2006, Palo went into full production at the end of 2007.

At 10,000 gallons, our two Palo tanks are the largest wooden brewing vessels built in America since before Prohibition (and we have three same-sized oak tanks right next to them).

Sixty-One, our first new core beer since 2007, was born at the crossroads of serendipity, experimentation and brotherhood.

Whenever Dogfish Head President Sam Calagione and his neighborhood friends gather for drinks, they give each other a big ol' man-hug and order a round of 60 Minute IPA. A few years ago, Sam also ordered a glass of his favorite red wine and poured a little into each pint of 60 Minute. They all dug the combination of fruity complexity and pungent hoppiness, and the blend became a beloved tradition.

Sixty-One captures that tradition in a bottle and marries two Dogfish Head innovations: beer/wine hybrids -- which Dogfish has focused on for well over a decade with beers like Midas Touch and Raison D'être -- and continually-hopped IPAs.

The name Sixty-One is a reminder that this beer is Dogfish Head's best-selling 60 Minute IPA plus one new ingredient: syrah grape must from California. The label, painted by Sam, is a twist on a typical watercolor. Rather than using water, Sam mixed the green pigment with beer and the red pigment with wine. And because Sixty-One pairs so well
with chocolate, he painted the browns on the label with melted chocolate.

60 Minute IPA is continuously hopped -- more than 60 hop additions over a 60-minute boil. (Getting a vibe of where the name came from?)

60 Minute is brewed with a slew of great Northwest hops. A powerful but balanced East Coast IPA with a lot of citrusy hop character, it's the session beer for hardcore enthusiasts!

Every Beer Has A Story...

In our Quick Sip Clip video below, Sam Calagione talks about the 60 Minute IPA. For some perspective, he compares this beer to its predecessor, 90 Minute IPA, and its big brother, 120 Minute IPA.

Sam stepped out of the brewery for the taping of this Quick Sip Clip and comes to us from the place where it all started: Dogfish Head, Maine.

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Thanksgiving Beers!

Thanksgiving Beers!

I'm sure I'll repeat myself many, many times over the next couple of weeks, as I'm already getting asked what I'll be drinking on Thanksgiving Day.  Here are my picks for pairing with hors devours, main course, and dessert! 

Hors devours: Cider!

 Naked Cider, Hendersonville, NC

Their Wicked Peel is a very apple-y cider that gets your salvating glands going!  Depending on your menu, the Blackberry Gold is also delicious!  

Main Course: Light, fresh flavors

Try Twice as Nice Dopplebock from Hi-Wire Brewing, Asheville, NC, Harvester Octoberfest from Green Man Brewing, Asheville, NC, or Ovila Abbey Saison from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, MIlls River, NC.

Dessert: Dark, sweet, and maybe a little spicy!

Try Imperial Pumpkin Smash from Crown Valley Brewing, Ste. Genevive, MO, or either of these great ones from Blind Squirrel Brewing in Plumtree, NC.

 

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Booze 101

As a parent I have always known that we would have to have "The Talk" one day. Several topics have come up for discussion lately, and not all of them have been...comfortable. I know that it is a parent's duty to educate our children about responsibility with sex, drugs, and alcohol. At times, I have squirmed under pressure to find the right words, knowing all the while that my little boy is no longer so little. He is seventeen after all and beginning his senior year in high school. Like most parents, I have struggled to find healthy ways to approach such subjects as well as making it clear to my son that I am available to talk about these things should he see the need. It's a strange dichotomy I face: hoping that he will trust me enough to talk about what is going on in his life while secretly praying that there isn't all that much to talk about. After a series of particularly stilted conversations about sex I was relieved that he wanted to talk about alcohol for a change! I thought the questions would be different, but as a student of Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation, I was ready to answer him. What follows is Booze 101, as explained from mother to teenage son:
Q: What's the difference between beer and whisk[e]y?
A: Well, you have to make beer before you make whisk[e]y, or at least something that resembles beer without the bubbles, and it may or may not use other grains besides what is typically thought of as brewer's grains. Regardless of the grain bill, you begin with a substance that is fermented to between six and ten percent alcohol. Then you heat that until it reaches a temperature hot enough for the alcohol to evaporate, but not the water. Because alcohol evaporates at roughly seventy degrees Fahrenheit, you can capture the steam, and there by capture the alcohol. The steam is then cooled back down into a liquid that is a much higher concentration of alcohol than you started out with. Usually between 50 and 70 percent. You can redistill that to get the percentage even higher if you want. In fact, most distillers will automatically separate the liquid that comes out first and last for a second distillation. This is called "The heads and the tails", and is known to carry more of the compounds that give people hangovers. By redistilling it, you can clean it up.
Q: Is that why you can store [distilled spirits] longer? Are there any beers that can be stored for a long time like stronger alcohols?
A: Alcohol is a natural preservative, so that's part of it. You're also removing the compounds that have a tendency to spoil over time, so it's a double edged sword. Molecularly speaking, alcohols aren't as reactive with oxygen as some of the other compounds in beer. Oxidation is one of the most common causes for beer spoilage, and it can present itself by tasting like wet cardboard in the beer. Dark beers naturally contain antioxidants that can help protect the beer from oxidation. Also, hoppy beers will lose their hop character over time, as the flavor either vanishes if stored properly at a cool temperature and away from light, or they will turn skunky if they haven't been treated so well. This is what we call "light struck", and it occurs when UV light interacts with the sulfur compounds found in hops. That's why so many brewers use brown glass bottles or cans to package their beers. Green and clear glass allows UV light to pass through the bottle to the beer, and shortens the shelf life of the liquid inside. If you want a beer that will age well, look for one that has some hops, as they are a natural anti-microbial preservative, but that doesn't depend on hops for their flavor. Barley wine is the most common aging beer, but there are others.
Q: So what's the difference between whiskey and vodka, other than vodka is made from potatoes?
A: Not necessarily. Vodka can be made out of any number of grains as well as potatoes. The main difference is that vodka (in the U.S., at least) must be odorless, flavorless, and colorless. That means that it has to be very pure, whereas whiskies often retain some flavor from the grain itself, and can be barrel aged to impart color as well as flavor. You are right, however, that all alcohol was once sugar, and many times the source of the sugar dictates the name of the distillate. Rum, for instance, is fermented and distilled from cane sugar. Tequilla, however, is the name of the region. So don't get too caught up in painting rules onto bottles with wide brushes. Mezcal is also made from the piña of the agave plant, but it comes from a different region, follows a different method [that includes smoking the piña first], and can be derived from red or blue agave. Tequilla uses only the blue agave.
Q: If Champagne is wine, then why is it carbonated while most other wines aren't?
A: First let's talk about terminology. There are a lot of sparkling wines out there, but only bubbly from Champagne France can be called Champagne. Most sparkling wines get their bubbles from a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Think about bottling beers with me. We add sugar, stir up the solution, bottle it, and cap it, right? That is because the byproducts of fermentation are ethanol and carbon dioxide. By creating an airtight seal in the bottle, we can trap the bubbles in the bottle. By adding sugar, we are giving the yeasts something to snack on so that they can continue the fermentation process. With sparkling wines made in the Champagne method, this secondary fermentation happens in the bottle. The bottles are stored with the corks down on an angle so that the yeast will fall down toward the cork. Someone has to turn the bottles slightly so that the yeast continue to work their way downward during the process. When it is ready, the yeast plug is removed through a process called disgorgement. A new cork is inserted, and the wine is ready. Other sparkling wines only go through a primary fermentation, and carbon dioxide is added just like a carbonated soft drink.
Q: Does it age well?
Some do. Carbon dioxide is yet another preservative. Most microorganisms can't live in a CO2 environment, so it can protect the wine from spoilage as well as oxidation. Proper storage is also a factor.
Q: So what's the difference between white wine and red wine? Is it the color of the grapes?
Yes and no. Champagne is almost always white, but it can be made of three different grapes, and only one of them is white. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier are the grapes. Only Chardonnay is a white grape, so you can make white wine from red grapes. The difference is really the amount of time the juice is in contact with the skins. All grape juice is clear, even the juice from grapes with dark skins. White wine is made by pressing the juice and throwing out the skins. Red wine is made by allowing the skins to stay in the juice during fermentation. How long exactly is up to the wine maker. As the juice ferments, it pulls the color and some flavor out of the skins. That's why there are red and white wines, and red and white grape juice as well!
With this, all of his questions were answered for the day. I wiped my brow and breathed a sigh of relief as I said, "Goodnight." It could have been so much worse!

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